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What Is an Air Conditioner Compressor & Is It Important?

Have you ever felt like your HVAC contractor is speaking an entirely different language than you? If so, we’re not in the least bit surprised. There are a lot of parts that come together to make an air conditioning system, and most of them aren’t exactly common knowledge. That’s why our team decided to help out, teaching you a bit about the most vital and critical components in your Fairfax cooling system. Today, let’s get into compressors!

What Is an Air Conditioner Compressor?

Compressors are one of the “big three” parts in your cooling system, the others being the condenser and the evaporator (topics for another day). All three of these parts, in essence, govern what happens to the refrigerant in your air conditioner, eventually coming together in a loop that results in a cooler home.

For the compressor specifically, it’s job is all in the name. It compresses! Specifically, it compresses the refrigerant. When your refrigerant (R-22 or R410a) comes to the compressor, it is in the form of a low-pressure gas en route from the evaporator. The compressor literally compresses the refrigerant, converting it into a high pressure, hot liquid. The compressor then sends the hot, liquid refrigerant to the condenser located in the outdoor unit.

What Are Common Compressor Problems?

Now that you’ve got a basic idea of what the part is, we can talk a bit about what issues it might encounter. This way, you’ll know what our experts are talking about next time we come to perform a repair service!

The trouble with a compressor is that since it’s one of the “big three,” replacing or repairing it is kind of one of those worse-case scenarios. It’s a costly repair, and often enough a homeowner might even be wiser to seek a complete AC replacement when a compressor problem is present. However, some easier and less costly problems will simply relate to the compressor, rather than be the compressor failing itself.

Common air conditioner compressor problems include:

  • Poor pressurization. Bad pressurization of the refrigerant is a common enough problem, and can have both good and bad outcomes in repairing. It depends on the root cause, which could include a refrigerant leak, mechanical failure, or electrical flaws.
  • Hard starting. Hard starting is typically an electrical issue, and luckily in many cases it can simply be repaired. It is important to catch this issue early, however, as it can lead to disastrous overheating.
  • Failing motor. The suction and discharge actions of a compressor depend on an operable motor system to perform correctly. Motor failure often results in replacement of the motor itself, which is somewhat costly, but much cheaper than a complete compressor replacement or HVAC replacement.
  • Overheating. Overheating can occur in multiple HVAC parts, and isn’t inherently a death sentence for the system. The most important thing is to stop using the cooling system completely until the problem can be diagnosed. Attempting to continue using the HVAC system tends to result in permanent damage, which is going to mean a much bigger repair cost!

All in all, compressor problems are things you want to avoid pretty much at all costs. Many of the issues are expensive and dangerous to your HVAC system as a whole. This is why routine, professional maintenance is absolutely vital. When we say that maintenance preserves critical AC components, the compressor is one of the big parts we’re talking about!

HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited: Northern Virginia’s Favorite Air Conditioning Repair Company

Regardless of where or when, if you’re experiencing any of these issues, contact us at HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited and let us put our expertise at your disposal. Our expertly trained professionals are standing by, ready for you!